Operation Christmas Child: How to Pack A Shoebox

Imagine being able to share the love of Jesus with people in Mongolia, Mexico and the Philippines. Not everyone is called to be a foreign missionary (although we are all called to be missionaries!), but we can still help spread the gospel all over the world!  

Child in Liberia receives shoebox, Photo Courtesy of Samaratain’s Purse

I want my children to grow up thinking of others and being generous with the blessings that God has given them!  I like to find opportunities where they can experience giving for themselves. Operation Christmas Child is a perfect opportunity for our family to give to others who don’t have as much as we do, as well as helping share God’s love with children around the world!

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If you aren’t familiar with Operation Christmas Child, it is a program from the Samaritan’s Purse organization. Franklin Graham, the oldest son of Billy & Ruth Graham, is the president and CEO of Samaritan’s purse. The organization works to help those in need all over the world in “the name of Jesus Christ.”

I have been packing shoeboxes to donate to Operation Christmas Child for years, I honestly don’t remember for sure when I first heard about it.  It started as a fun activity, a neat idea that wasn’t hard to accomplish and now I can see that it is so much more!!

Why Pack A Shoebox For Operation Christmas Child?

It’s Inexpensive

Operation Christmas Child boxes being transported by elephant in Zimbabwe
Operation Christmas Child boxes being transported by elephant in Zimbabwe, Photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

Thru the holidays we have many opportunities to give to others, but we may not have the means to help with big gifts. Often times, organizations may be looking for people to help provide an entire Christmas for a child or even a whole family.

With Operation Christmas Child, you will be able to impact a child’s life for less than $50, not just give them a toy that they will likely forget!

Doesn’t Take Much Time

You can shop and fill your box in an hour of two.  If you decide to pack more than one box, it may take a little longer. 

Take the opportunity to create a tradition with your family!  Have a shoebox packing night! You could even start shopping for items for your shoeboxes weeks or even months before to help build the anticipation.

It Will Make A Child’s Day… Maybe Even Their Life! 

When a child gets a shoebox, they are then invited to participate in The Greatest Journey, a 12 week course where children will learn about Jesus and the Bible.  More than 18.9 million children have enrolled in this program since 2009!

Children in Mongolia studying The Greatest Journey, Photo Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

The Samaritan’s Purse website has many inspiring stories of children’s lives being changed through their program.  One boy named Ernesto was featured on their website, he said,

“Jesus is the best gift that people can get! I can help others to grow and know about Him.”

What an awesome outcome from a few dollars spent on toys and a lot of prayer that covers these shoeboxes! Take a few minutes to look over the Samaritan’s Purse website and watch the videos of the children receiving these treasured gifts! I feel sure that it will inspire you to give to this worthy cause!

Who Should Pack An Operation Christmas Child ShoeBox?

Anyone can pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child!  I think it is an awesome opportunity for our kids to see how a little act of love and kindness on our part can reach across the world!

Child in Mexico holding their shoebox from Operation Christmas Child
A Young Girl In Mexico With Her Shoebox, Photo Courtesy of Operation Christmas Child

However church groups, businesses, civic organizations and many other organizations can set up a shoebox packing day to encourage others to participate! For the past few years, our small church has packed more than 20 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Several years ago, my family decided that we would pack shoe boxes on our regular weekly meal, or “family night” as we like to call it!  This was a fun way for the kids in our family to join together and participate in this awesome cause! 

What do I put in my shoebox?

Start off with a regular shoebox, or you can get a box from the website, or Hobby Lobby also sells the plastic boxes for about $3 each. Our church has purchased the plastic boxes for the past few years in hopes that the box itself would be an extra little treasure.

Children holding shoeboxed from Operation Christmas Child
Children in Uganda holding their shoeboxes, photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

First, you will need to decide if you are packing your box for a boy, or a girl.  And then, you can choose the age group that you would like your box to be given to. The age ranges are 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old, and 10-14 years old.  

The needs and wants of these ages will vary quite a bit, so be sure that you are buying with your child’s age in mind!  

One “Wow” Gift

You want to have one “wow” or big item.  Obviously, it can’t be too big, but something that will be extra special for the child.   

  • I have bought these small baby dolls from Amazon before (and I love these snugglepods too) for girls age 2-4.  
  • I like to get how to draw books for the 5-9 year old, these are one of our favorites.
  • A ball that has a pump and can be inflated.  
  • A small stuffed animal (this is one of our favorites)
  • A T shirt or other clothing  (Be sure to realize that the age range might make it difficult to fit your child!)
  • A small truck, tractor or boat
  • A bag, purse, or backpack (small)

 Be sure not to make your Wow gift so large that you can’t fit anything else in the box (a cautionary tale)!! 

Also, other small personal care items would be a great idea! You can may be able to buy some of these things in a set and split them up if you are doing several boxes. 

Check out “What Goes In My Shoebox?” here and download the official list and ideas from Samaritain’s Purse here

Do Not Send:  

Candy; toothpaste; gum; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Write a note

I have included a printable that you can download and print to have a place for your child to write a special message to the child and let them know that they are being prayed for!



This year, you can drop off you shoeboxes (find your nearest drop off location here) on November 18-25th. 

This is a little earlier than we would normally be thinking about Christmas, which is why we need to be prepared ahead of time!  Get your boxes packed in November, so they can be sent around the world in time for Christmas!!!

Now what?

boy and girl praying

PRAY!!! Oh, how important it is to pray for your boxes, and the children who will receive them!  If you are like me, often out of sight, is out of mind! So, I have created a note that you can write your child, and at the bottom, you can cut off the bottom portion and make a prayer reminder for the child that will receive your box. 

 Note + Reminder card  

Talk to your child about these children in other countries and how much these shoeboxes to them.  Then, take a few minute to show your child the Samaritan’s Purse Website.  There are wonderful videos there that will touch your heart and your child’s! Finally have your child write a personal note to the child that will receive the  shoebox, telling them how much they hope they will enjoy their gifts.  Checkout my Resource Library for a free printable note and a detachable prayer reminder that your child can use to write their own message.  You may also include your name and address so that the child that receives your gift can write to you if they wish. 

Track Your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

If you submit your information/donation online, you will be able to track where your boxes go thru “Follow My Shoebox”!  After you find out where your boxes are going, be sure to add that information to your prayer card, so you and your child will know more about the child that you are praying for! 

Shoeboxes traveling by raft in Fiji
Shoeboxes traveling by raft in Fiji, Photo Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

It is so important for us to raise our children to think outside of our comfortable, materialistic world.  It can be so hard because of the busyness of life to slow down enough to teach our kids about children who are living in other countries that don’t have all of the blessings that we do!  Operation Christmas Child can be an awesome opportunity for you and your child to do something tangible for a child in need.  And in doing this simple act, God can use your prayers and the wonderful teachings of the Samaritan’s Purse to spread the gospel of Jesus unto all nations!

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 28:19

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